Tuesday, 26 June 2007

“Anne Francis Stars In …”

Another female adventure character from the 1960s, another one-off Gold Key comic.

The TV series Honey West lived and died in the shadow of The Avengers. ABC television had evidently noticed the success of The Avengers in the UK, and wanted their own version. It ran for just one season (1965-66), before being cancelled to make way for the real thing. Honey West star Anne Francis reckoned that this was because The Avengers, having recouped its production costs in its home market, could be bought more cheaply. But it seems likely that ABC’s executives were also belatedly responding to the wave of anglophilia set off by the Beatles.

They may also have noticed that Honey West wasn’t all that good. Its half-hour episodes about the escapades of a Los Angeles private eye, her disapproving partner, and her pet ocelot are light and breezy, but they creak with the burden of middle-aged script writers trying desperately to be hip. Personally, I find that rather appealing, but The Avengers was constructing part of 1960s pop culture, while Honey West was just looking in.

Even so, Honey West offered a type of heroine that had probably never been seen before on US TV: confident, proficient, armed, and capable of throwing men around in a fight. And unlike Charlie’s Angels, producer Aaron Spelling’s next show about women detectives a decade later, Honey was clearly the boss.

Spelling’s source material was a series of novels by the semi-pseudonymous GG Fickling (“Fickling” was real, “GG” was fake), but all he kept were the name and the basic idea of a female PI. Fickling’s books were an attempt to write Mickey Spillane type thrillers with Marilyn Monroe in the role of Mike Hammer, but they are desperately crude in all senses of the word.

There’s a good site about the books here, and one about the TV series here. The entire series is available on Region 0 PAL DVD.

Gold Key’s comic book adaptation was produced in 1966. It contains two 16-page stories, “The Underwater Raiders”, about a jewel robbery on board a ship, and “The Fall Guy”, about an attempt to fix a wrestling match.

The Grand Comics Database attributes both stories to Paul S Newman (script) and Jack Sparling (art); but I suspect that there may, at least, have been different inkers at work. Here are a couple of extracts from “The Underwater Raiders”.

And here are some panels from “The Fall Guy”.

Some of those later panels remind me of Dan Spiegle. The likenesses are better, and the inking style is reminiscent of his work on Nemesis in The Brave and the Bold, but the compositions aren’t up to his standard.

The comic can best be described as “functional”. By Gold Key standards, that’s pretty good, but still hardly worth seeking out.

Update, 27 June 2007 Added two more scans.

Pictures and Panels
Honey West issue 1, Gold Key/KK Publications, 1966

1 comment:

Walaka said...

Honey West was my very first crush! The show was never very good, but some eps were written by Levinson and Link, then in their thirties, who later went on to do Columbo and other good stuff. Not bad proto-feminist adventure.

I had never seen interiors of the comic, though - thanks for highlighting this!